How Big is Your 'But'?

Not that butt!

Let’s say, we’re stressed, and we know a yoga class would reduce the anxiety (history has shown), but we don’t have time. We’re starving and we know that a smoothie or a protein bar would fill the gap until the next meal, but we go for a sugary something instead. We’re exhausted and tense, but instead of taking a mellow hatha class we go for another power class. Our nerves are fried and our breath is shallow, but instead of pausing to meditate for five minutes (or even five breaths) we push on like the Energizer Bunny.

Why do we make those choices?

We want to lose weight, save money, reduce stress, create more freedom in our bodies and minds…but instead we eat on the fly, use the credit card again, have more coffee, take on another class, or don’t make the time to meditate.

But why?

Why is it so hard to do the things we know could be the game changers? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a "good angel" to hold our hand and lead us not into temptation? I wish!

Change is hard for so many reasons:

  • Getting over the hump of "denying ourselves" to form the healthy new habit
  • Expecting too much too soon
  • FOMO (fear of missing out): If I do X I’ll be missing out on Y
  • Inner perfectionist
  • The size of our "but" – our habituation, or mental programs

We might even have resistance to dropping the resistance. What’s up with that? Then we go and compound the resistance with guilt and the vicious cycle tumbles on. With that said, we could consider that we aren’t always operating in the ideal decision-making environment. While we may be highly motivated to "do the right thing" the fear of failing can actually lead us to make a poor choice. High-stakes decisions cloud our judgment – especially if we’ve got a bank full of perceived fails and regrets. If we didn’t care about an outcome, such as being healthier overall, making the "right choices" would be easier. But we are highly invested (at least in theory) in our health and well-being, so making better choices have that much more stress associated with them. We take the easier route; the default route to chocolate, not doing yoga and saying yes again.

Often, making a better choice creates a domino effect which we just don’t have the time, strength or energy to deal with. For instance, doing that yoga class today means we might hear a teacher tell us about our habits of self-sabotage but we didn’t wear our waterproof mascara. Or, to get to the healthy food store we may have to drive practically across town, which will make us late for our next appointment. Or, slowing down anything might mean slowing down everything and the repercussions of that are downright yucky.

Perhaps you’ve heard the adage that people sometimes have to "hit rock bottom" before they are ready to make real changes. Carl Jung once said that laziness is our greatest passion, even greater than power, sex, or anything. How bad does the situation need to get before we are prompted into doing something about it? Hopefully we don’t have to hit our rock bottom, but some of us will have to be shown the absolute wrong way (again…and again…and again) in order to be exhausted and disappointed enough to try a new way. Our self- esteem plays a starring role in taking better care of ourselves – we’ve got to believe in our worth to make healthy, beneficial choices and stick with them.

Jung also said: “What we resist persists.” Resistance is futile natural. It’s an emotional process. Resistance is a natural and predictable response to a difficult reality. It’s healthy even, if it motivates us into exploring the reason for it. If the reality is that we need to meditate and do yoga more often but it presents a waterfall of buts…don’t despair! We need only find a way to do it that works for us. Trying to make massive changes will only set us up to fail. Start with some small stuff:

  • Put your yoga mat right beside your bed so you stretch a bit as soon as you wake up or right before sleep.
  • Carry an apple and a protein bar in your bag at all times.
  • Set an alarm to chime throughout the day for reminders to pause and breathe.
  • Drink lots of water.

When making sweeping changes or small changes, no one succeeds 100% of the time. Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron has admitted that her mind is incredibly busy – still, after all these years as a committed meditator – but she’s learned to not get caught up in the stories. We’re all human.

When we begin a spiritual path, either as a new teacher or a student, we have to remember how small our formal spiritual education is compared to the depth and breadth of our lives before. This should give us some insight as to how powerful our habituation is. There is much self-study and understanding to undergo before repatterning can occur – and it was never a race. We only have now anyway. Every inhale is a new beginning, every exhale a letting go.

“We are all blind people who can see but who do not see.”~ Jose Saramago, author of Blindness

Kari Winfield has been involved in the yoga industry for 12 years, as a student, teacher, studio manager, and teacher trainer. Wearing different hats in the industry has shown her the many ways that yoga can be practiced, and her conclusion is that the essence of yoga is in the relationships we forge with ourselves, others, work, nature, and life itself. Kari operates a one-on-one yoga mentoring service for both teachers and students, exploring the questions that can arise with a life lived with yoga.

Website: Yoga Teacher Mentor 

Facebook: Kari Winfield Yoga Teacher Mentor 

Twitter: @KariWinfield1  

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kariwinfield, posted on November 29, 2012

@noura Oy the psoas-on-fire...I get it in my hamstrings. It's tough to listen to that 'hurts so good' stretch when it might actually be causing damage. It takes that sensitivity that a regular yoga practice builds to know the difference between "just right" and too far. I tend to go directly to restoratives when I hurt myself doing yoga. I'll get my exercise by running or cross fit, but the yoga will be totally supportive and meditative.

kariwinfield, posted on November 29, 2012

Of course we can motivate, but we leave it there. You've heard the saying "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". I've been the 'horse' so many times myself. I have a massive, like 8-storey toolbox full of tips, hints, and how-to's that promise to make all my tension and stress melt away, but do you think I go straight to it it times of need? Certainly sometimes, but not all the time. There's so much pressure out there to be better and while we ride that train of self-improvement, we've got to make daily stops for self-forgiveness too.

botanicaldimensions, posted on November 28, 2012

This is relevant in any aspect of life that calls for change. Facing stress, facing addiction, facing relationships, etc. My question is, is it possible to motivate others to be more honest with themselves? I can be a light, but I'm on my own path. Everybody has to find their yoga, their path to peace. I can offer a solution but I can't live someone else's life vicariously through my own.

noura_2, posted on November 28, 2012

@kariwinfield Absolutely Kari! I've had to back from 'too much stretching' around the hip flexor area Psoas felt like it was on fire for two weeks solid and now working on less hip openers and more on building strength and firing up the deep glutes instead. Less is more! ;)

kariwinfield, posted on November 27, 2012

@noura Glad you liked it, Noura! I speak from experience of torn hamstrings and low blood sugar. My practice only really started to get juicy once I injured myself...had to slow it down!

noura_2, posted on November 27, 2012

Fantastic article and I see this everyday - got to do the most challenging class otherwise I won't feel good...and the friend comes back injured, more frazzled and wanting to go for a massage...very good - well written and honest!

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